Friday Fallacy: If By Whiskey

This may or may not become a  semi-regular feature on Fridays. It depends on how many fallacies I find interesting enough to write about.

I have been fascinated by the world of behavioral economics for several years now, and always enjoy learning something new, especially when it comes to our cognitive biases. Dan Ariely mentioned on is his most recent post – escalation of commitment – so I thought it would be fun to have a regular post that featured a different cognitive bias each week.

As I was searching for such a list (Wikipedia has quite a list), I came across a link to the concept of fallacies. According to Wikipedia, a fallacy is reasoning that is logically incorrect, undermines the logical validity of an argument, or is recognized as unsound.

So I started to scroll through the list and came across many fallacies that I found interesting. So I thought I would share some of those, perhaps on a periodic basis.

The first one I thought I would write about is known as “if by whiskey” – an argument that supports both sides of an issue by using terms that are emotionally sensitive and ambiguous.

The origin of the phrase is a classic example of doublespeak. Here is what Wikipedia offers:

The label if-by-whiskey refers to a 1952 speech by Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat, Jr., a young lawmaker from the U.S. state of Mississippi, on the subject of whether Mississippi should continue to prohibit (which it did until 1966) or finally legalize alcoholic beverages:[3]

My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

Wow – this guy is good. I don’t know if I want to run to my closest bar and get a shot of whiskey, or to avoid the stuff at all cost.

He effectively appealed to both sides of the argument, it just depends what you mean by the word whiskey.

I’ll give it a shot here. If someone asked me how I feel about blogging every day, here’s how I might respond:

If by blogging you mean the opportunity to potentially share your thoughts with a larger audience than you would normally reach, or to virtually meet people from around the world, or to engage in thoughtful and entertaining dialogue with fellow bloggers from around the world and learn different points of view, or the opportunity to learn something new every day on a wide range of topics, then how could I not love blogging.

But, if by blogging you mean the pressure of having to come up with something new to write about every day, of the pressure to provide thoughtful, clever, and entertaining comments on other people’s posts as well as responding to comments on your own post, of the time devoted to blogging, sometimes amounting to 3-4 hours every day, of the sense of disappointment of pouring your heart and soul into a post only to have no one read or comment on it, then why would I bother blogging.

This is my stand on blogging. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.


85 thoughts on “Friday Fallacy: If By Whiskey

  1. I totally agree with your position on Blogging. You have the courage of your convictions and you are willing to stand up and be counted, no matter how many “likes” you might lose. Please like this comment and go to my site and pepper it with clever comments but not so clever that you upstage me.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Not true, your comment on my Almost Never post this morning totally upstaged me. Everyone at my last Blathers Anonymous meeting felt that blathering is an underappreciated acquired taste.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. You are quite proficient at this. Have you considered a career in politics? So many politicians are good at taking both sides of an issue to the point that I wonder where they really stand.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Ha! But Jim everything in life has pros and cons. Whiskey can be good and useful in the hands of the majority, but becomes a vice in the hands of the minority [hopefully] who have no self discipline. Most abuses of things in life boil down to a lack of self discipline in my [esteemed – hehe] opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like this idea for a series. I have always enjoyed having a better understanding of our behavior. I love the political ambiguity of taking both sides of an argument. This is the pitfall of any educated discussion. The most important part is to first agree on the definition of the subject you are speaking to. Hope to see future post in this series!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I am all for this and I think this would be a fun read and make a rollicking series and a mood-lifter, inspiring others to create their own blog series if you choose to continue it, however if you choose not to continue it I am all for that, as who needs to read a rollicking series that makes one’s own posts look lame?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. and that’s the goal of doublespeak. so now you are officially a member of the Doublespeakers Club of America, one of the few non-politicians in the group… 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  6. This sounds like a good idea for a regular series, Jim. I’d never heard the phrase ‘if by Whisky’ before but old Soggy had a point. Typical of a politician to not answer a straight question, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Another interesting effect. Really well-explained, Will definitely add this to the list of fallacies to watch out for
    Also hope you can make this a regular series, it’s really interesting to know about these different mental models, since they really can be useful in everyday life. I’ve also made some posts on fallacies and psychological effects as well, that I learned from a book called ‘Super Thinking’, which I really, highly recommend if you find this kind of stuff interesting

    Liked by 2 people

Comments are closed.